SA theology institute exposed as bogus after training 200 Zim church leaders

The Immanuel Theology Institute headquartered in South Africa which recently trained and awarded certificates to church leaders in Zimbabwe in August has been exposed as an unregistered and fraudulent institution.

This raises fears that the local church leaders may have been duped by the unaccredited institution.

Immanuel Theology Institute offers courses in Divinity and Theology.

However, South African authorities in April dismissed the institution as an illegal institution and not qualified to offer any higher education qualifications.

The authorities also said if any qualifications had been conferred by Immanuel Theology Institute they have no standing. 

The previous month, in March, South Africa’s Carte Blanche, a current affairs investigative media series, exposed the founder of the Immanuel Theology Institute International, Edward van den Berg, as a fraud whose institution was not government-accredited.

Berg has been accused of establishing his own accreditation bodies to certify his courses, while he proclaimed himself as a Doctor and Professor.

Concerned church members in Zimbabwe, on the other hand, alleged that several church leaders received certificates at a ceremony in Bulawayo after completing training at the Immanuel Institute.

“The graduation was held on August 20, 2023, where there were more than 200 graduates,” said a concerned member. 

“It was a big ceremony as there was a march led by the Council of Churches Africa. Even this Ven de Berg was here. Our understanding from the participants was the certificates and training were done by Immanuel University.”

Following the South African media expose, concerned church members questioned whether the Institute was recognised in Zimbabwe and whether the credentials provided by that institution were authentic. 

“Many church elders, especially from Zion church, graduated,” said one of the members.

When contacted for a comment, the President of the Council of Churches in Africa (CCA), Bishop Dr Rocky Moyo said he was out of the country and could not readily comment on the issue.

When approached for a comment on this matter, the Zimbabwe Council for Higher Education (ZIMCHE) Chief Executive Officer, Professor Kuzvinetsa Dzvimbo, responded, “Thank you for this information, we will investigate.”   

In its investigation originally aired on March 12, 2023, Carte Blanche described Van den Berg as a “self-appointed visionary, who after receiving a commission from God, established the Immanuel Theology Institute International.”

Carte Blanche said, “Inspired by the parable of Moses, and offering certificates, diplomas and degrees, the so-called Doctor, Professor, Chancellor and Archbishop of his own multicampus online university insists he’s leading his followers to the Promised Land.”

“Trouble is, his institution isn’t government accredited. So the self-proclaimed disciple of the ‘Most High’ established his own accreditation bodies to certify his courses, said Carte Blanche as they investigated the “‘General’” of God’s bogus university.”

South Africa’s Council on Higher Education (CHE) also issued a statement on April 4, 2023, stating that Immanuel Institute is not accredited by the CHE to give any higher education certificates, and so cannot offer any higher education qualifications in the country. 

CHE’s Designated Spokesperson, Chief Executive Officer, Dr Whitfield Green said the law accords the council, as the custodian of the Higher Education Qualifications Framework and it is the only organisation that can accredit higher education programmes to be offered in South Africa.

“Immanuel University or Institute of Theology is an organisation that claims to be a higher education institution and a higher education accrediting body. These are false claims,” said CHE’s spokesperson at that time.

“The Immanuel Institute is not accredited by the CHE to offer any higher education qualifications, and therefore it cannot offer any higher education qualifications in the country. If any qualifications have been awarded, these have been awarded illegally and have no standing. They are fraudulent qualifications and are not recognised.”

Dr Green further went on to say the Immanuel Institute cannot accredit or “franchise’’ any other institution and so enable that institution to offer higher education qualifications in South Africa.

“The so-called accredited institution would also be operating illegally and offering fraudulent qualifications. The South African public is urged to take care not to enroll with these organisations or any organisation that claims to have been accredited by any entity other than the Council on Higher Education if they are seeking to study legitimate, recognised qualifications in the country,” said CHE’s spokesperson.

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